SHELBY – While many speakers said a proposed overlay district to protect the wildlife refuge is a government overreach and attack on local property rights, the Town Board was praised by other community members for seeking to protect the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.
Wendi Pencille, leader of the Citizens for Shelby Preservation, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation let the community down by not demanding more environmental scrutiny of a proposed 215-acre quarry project on Fletcher Chapel Road.
The Town Board proposed the overlay district about a week after a DEC administrative law judge said on July 27 the quarry didn’t have any issues that needed adjudication or a deeper review.
“We’re very glad the town has decided to do the work the DEC has not done,” Pencille said during a public hearing on Wednesday attended by about 150 people.
Several landowners objected to the overlay district, which includes 3,821 acres within a 3,000-foot buffer north of the refuge. The town has proposed an overlay district that restricts mining, blasting, junk yards, kennels, airports, motor vehicle repair shops, outdoor commercial recreation areas and telecommunication facilities.
Pencille said the State Environmental Quality Review Act is a “fraud.” The Shelby citizens group formed 10 years ago and Pencille said the members have been following the DEC and the SEQR process with the review of the stone quarry.
“It failed to protect one of the most sensitive environmental habitats in the State of New York, a habitat it was designed to protect,” Pencille said.
She said the Local Law could be amended to address some of the issues raised by residents during Wednesday’s public hearing, while keeping the restrictions against the quarry.
Frontier Stone is proposing for a quarry in a residential-agriculture district. It would need the Town Board to change the zoning to industrial to allow for the project.
Several residents urged the town to fight for the refuge. Lorraine Davis of Bigford Road said the quarry would hurt the air and water quality of the immediate area, and disrupt a peaceful neighborhood.
“The buffer zone is an excellent idea,” said Brian McCarty, a Dunlap Road resident. He worries if the quarry goes through, other mining companies will look to establish operations near environmentally sensitive areas.
“They will use this as a model to go on every nature preserve and wildlife refuge,” McCarty said. His father lives in Lockport where he said LaFarge has a quarry on Hinman Road that has disrupted a quiet residential area. He urged community members to talk to residents near that quarry.
Local resident Gail Miller also supported the overlay district, saying it’s not unusual for towns to put restrictions on property. “The DEC has failed its responsibility,” she said.
Al Capurso, a Gaines resident, said the refuge deserves the added protection. He urged the town to try to keep the quarry out.
“Money talks and nature walks,” Capurso said.
Another resident, local farmer Dale Root, said Frontier Stone is not putting the refuge in danger.
“There is no evidence showing there will be wildlife destruction,” Root said. “The experts show there will be no problems with the proposal so why can’t it go forward?”
Bill Keppler urged the board to try to preserve the rural character of the community. The open spaces are an asset, drawing people to the community, he said.
Marguerite Sherman, a Medina village trustee, also voiced her support for the overlay district and restrictions on uses near the refuge.
However, another resident, Dick Keppler, said the refuge “is big enough.” Keppler said the town should not “trample on other peoples’ rights” to target restricting the quarry.
Town Supervisor Skip Draper said residents are welcome to comment on the overlay district until Oct. 1. They can submit their concerns to the Town Hall on Salt Works Road.